Kevin A. Leonard, a professor of history at Western Washington University, has been selected as an NEH Summer Scholar from a national applicant pool to attend one of 30 seminars and institutes supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Endowment is a federal agency that, each summer, supports these enrichment opportunities at colleges, universities, and cultural institutions, so that faculty can work in collaboration and study with experts in humanities disciplines.
Leonard will participate in an institute entitled “Finding Mississippi in the National Civil Rights Narrative: Struggle, Institution Building, and Power at the Local Level.” The three-week program will be held at Jackson State University.
The summer institute highlights the various narratives of the Civil Rights Movement while bringing the Mississippi and the national stories together. To provide essential context, the institute will briefly survey the history of African Americans from slavery through the crucibles of the Civil War and Reconstruction and during the dark journey of Jim Crow. Key moments will be examined to clarify and explain why a massive and successful Movement for freedom emerged after 1954. Specifically, participants will explore in great depth the struggle for freedom in Mississippi while comparing it to significant events in other parts of the American South, allowing an analysis that addresses the power of the older national narrative and the newer one based on community struggle. The participants will engage in thought-provoking discussions and lectures led by veteran civil rights activists and scholars and travel to prominent historic sites, such as the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis and Fannie Lou Hamer’s home in Ruleville, Mississippi. By the end of the institute, which coincides with the weeklong celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Freedom Summer, summer scholars would have placed the local within the national narrative, providing new analytical tools for understanding the transformative impact of the Civil Rights Movement.
The 30 college and university faculty selected to participate in the program each receive a stipend of $2,700 to cover their travel, study, and living expenses.
The approximately 437 NEH Summer Scholars who participate in these programs of study will teach more than 113,925 American students the following year.